Plan Poché

Plan pochéPoché was a usual term at the École des Beaux-Arts ateliers in Paris for the depiction technique of inking in sections of walls in a building. This method, not used explicitly until the 19th century, had already been developing gradually since the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. Poché was a texture architects used on drawings to abstract residual or service areas and relegate them to the background of the drawing, against which the regular figures stood out. This technique was developed considerably in eighteenth-century France, being in keeping with the type of plans used for the homes of the aristocracy in the Ancien Régime. Hence poché was the expression of residual space: a way of omitting the incidental and providing a visible portrayal of the longing for perfection, inherent in an architectural work.

After falling into disuse, like many other categories of academic origin in the early decades of the 20th century, the poché concept was subsequently revived by some of the most outstanding critics in the latter half of that century. Colin Rowe defined it as “the imprint upon the plan of the traditional heavy structure”, whilst for Alan Colquhoun it was meant to identify “the hidden service spaces”.  Robert Venturi mentioned poché too in his passionate defence of complexity and contradiction in architecture.  Whilst Rowe’s definition was in line with the original or academic meaning of the term, Colquhoun went even further by giving it a spatial meaning which, it must be said, was inherent in the etymology of the word poché itself, for its root —poche— meant basically “something hollow, something swollen”. The semantic scope of poché could, therefore, embrace two apparently irreconcilable extremes: matter and void.

Built upon this theoretical basis, the book is divided into two parts. The first one addresses the implicit use of poché in French domestic tradition from the seventeenth century onwards, while the second one shows the different reinterpretations of the poché concept in Modern Architecture, by analyzing the work of Auguste Perret, Louis I. Kahn and Le Corbusier.

Plan Poché (Barcelona: Fundación Caja de Arquitectos, 2012). FAD Award for Thought and Criticism 2013.

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